09/07/2010 11:57AM

Candy Land


If the congregation would please turn to the Gospel According to the California Horse Racing Board, Book of Rules, Chapter 1699, Verse (c), and read along as follows:

"A horse which interferes with another and thereby causes any other horse to lose stride, ground or position, when such other horse is not at fault and when such interference occurs in a part of the race where the horse interfered with loses the opportunity to place where it might, in the opinion of the Stewards, be reasonably expected to finish, may be disqualified and placed behind the horse so interfered with."

We will now sing "We Shall Gather at the River."

Horseplayers who were under the impression that stewards of the California variety just make it up as they go probably will be surprised to read the above passage. Though thoroughly lawyered with more escape clauses than a oil drilling contract, the particulars of 1699(c) make it fairly clear that the victim in an interference situation must pretty much prove his victimhood if the transgressor is going to suffer any consequences.

The issue arose last Sunday at Del Mar when Twirling Candy, a blinkered, near black, high-spirited son of Candy Ride, took his unsuspecting gray opponent Summer Movie for a tour of the center of the course as the field for the Del Mar Derby turned onto the backstretch of the 9-furlong grass race. It was a wild few moments, clearly lasting longer than either Joel Rosario, on Twirling Candy, or Victor Espinoza, clinging to Summer Movie, would have preferred. As Espinoza noted later, when back safely on the ground, Summer Movie was not only bumped and ushered far off line, he crossed his legs and nearly stumbled. Gasps from the crowd and announcer Trevor Denman could be heard far and wide.

Twirling Candy finally got his act together to cruise home by better than three lengths, with Rosario wrapped up, looking sheepish. Summer Movie was last, trailing the fifth-place finisher by nearly seven lengths. An inquiry ensued, during which the stewards decided that Summer Movie was clearly bothered by Twirling Candy, but that the interference did not cost Summer Movie a placing, per 1699(c). The result stood.

And the boos rained down, a rare sound at laid-back Del Mar, as Denman made the announcement, after repeated showings of the patrol tape video throughout the grandstand and on the infield video board. Denman, speaking for the stewards, was forced to explain that based on what happened to Summer Movie subsequent to the incident, a disqualification of the winner would have been "unjustified."

"I'm sure fans were reacting to the dramatic video," said steward Scott Chaney. "There was clearly interference. But that is not the only standard."

In the parlance of stewards through the ages, there is an officiating philosophy referred to as "a foul is a foul." This hard-line stance was standard policy at many East Coast tracks for many years, holding that any action deemed to have caused interference was automatically punishable by disqualification. It did not matter if a violator won off with clear superiority. A foul was a foul, and he came down. This happened notoriously in the 1971 Woodward Stakes, when Cougar II and Bill Shoemaker were cited for leaning in while on their way to a romping win, and even more notoriously in the 1967 Jersey Derby when an overly enthusiastic Manuel Ycaza, aboard Dr. Fager, squeezed the field from his outside post leaving the gate, before going on to win by a pole.

Nowadays, the thinking is more serpentine, sort of "foul, no harm, okay, no foul." In the case of the Del Mar Derby, the stewards did the math and decided that the ground lost by Summer Movie entering the backstretch did not put him close enough for a piece of the purse at the end. They noted that Summer Movie re-engaged Twirling Candy once again on the far turn, and that Espinoza even used the whip a couple of times in the stretch while his mount retreated, the conclusion being that Summer Movie was always going to finish where he finished no matter what.

This, of course, is the kind of magical thinking that stewards must employ from time to time, just to get to the end of the day. Holding the firm conviction that Summer Movie was the same Summer Movie before and after being shivareed into the middle of the course is a difficult trick, and bless them for such Solomonic certainty. There was clearly nothing Rosario could have done differently, outweighed has he was by half a ton of Twirling Candy. The rule, as applied, simply accounts for bad luck. The rub of the green.

What if, Chaney was asked, Espinoza had been tossed from the saddle, or if Summer Movie had fallen? The steward replied that, even in the face of overwhelming superiority, there was a "strong likelihood" Twirling Candy would have been disqualified because there would have been no way of knowing where Summer Movie would have eventually placed. Given that, the Twirling Candy folks owe their victory to the ability of Espinoza to hang on and Summer Movie to keep his feet.

There is a worry that failing to penalize such obvious interference with a disqualification encourages rough riding. Not so, Chaney insisted, citing the Cinderella Stakes at Hollywood Park last June when She'll Heir and Rafael Bejarano bulled their way through a tight pack to win drawing off. The result stood, but Bejarano was suspended five days. Later on, we can argue if such a penalty is a deterrent, but it's at least in the ballpark.

Twirling Candy was going to win the Del Mar Derby even if he'd given the rest of them a head start. That's clear. What's also clear is a longing among some horseplayers and horsemen for the simplicity of a zero-tolerance atmosphere of enforcement, with no room for nuance or mitigating circumstance. The current system does not come close to what I like to call the Jerardi Ultimatum (named for colleague Dick Jerardi, its passionate advocate), in which stewards are used only as doorstops and no result is ever over-turned. In the end perhaps it's a good thing that there is room for stewards to maneuver, and to arrive at a final decision that is the least offensive to the most who care. But if enough people don't like rules, the rules eventually will be changed. That's how the game is played. I'm just glad Secretariat held a straight line in the Belmont.


chicago gerry More than 1 year ago
Mike A. and Van Savant, Believe it or not I just got my first printer about 2 weeks back. I think it was Ray Manley who said he liked rolling up the DRF paper version and sticking it in his back pocket. I have to agree with him on that. Have been printing race cards lately and find it is OK. I am liking the download race cards better than I thought I would, because I can lean back on the Davenport (sofa to those born after 1950), hold the sheets close up, and mark them up pretty easily. Habits die hard though, and I will probably return to the newspaper form. Besides the PP's. I like reading the articles. I ripped through an ink cartridge pretty fast, and if I don't get more out of the cartridges, I know for certain I will go back to the Newspaper. My son tells me that the cartridge that comes with the machine when you purchase it, is not a full cartridge, so we will see how the second one goes. It is my recollection, that ways to get the most out of your at home printer and ink was discussed here on the Formblog, but since I did not have a printer at the time, I don't recall what was said. ----- Blackstone, Will look for that Divito runner should I get to the track on Friday. Plan to be at AP on Saturday, and hopefully Sunday, as it is closing weekend at AP. Several runners I have been waiting for are running this weekend. At least eight. Depending on the rain, I expect some good racing this weekend and I expect to do well but who knows.
Glenn Groh More than 1 year ago
Jay, I am confused by the Beyer Ratings. For example in reveiwing his tables for two horses, let's say for sprints, there may be a difference in Beyer ratings of 20 points, say 70 and 50. From the tables that would be a difference of about 1 1/2 lengths at the finish. I would bet that the horse with the lower rating wouldn't be within 1 1/2 lengths of the other in over 95% of all races. So, how reliable are the Beyer ratings, or where am I wrong?
jhovdey More than 1 year ago
Glenn -- I have forwarded your question to Dan Illman's blog. He's the right guy for the answer, so tune in over there.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Jay 9.5 of your last 10 guys don't like the stewards. I'd hate to see what American Dentists would have to say about stewards !!!! lol. I didn't bet it but I didn't like it. Slowly counting down my last days as a Great late State of California bettor. The stewards could never drive me out but the TOC and the legislature can and will on 12/26. How do you say " hasta la vista Zetcher baby" "I haahd to split" and " I won't be baaahck " in Kentuckese Arnie ? Or better yet my personal Arnie favorite from terminator " @#$% off @#$ hole "
taxman More than 1 year ago
I am still trying to figure out 16 years later why The Wicked North was DQ'd from his 1994 Santa Anita handicap win? He moved maybe 10 inches at the top of the stretch and was unjustly taken down. This kind of crap has been going on in California for years. It is time it stopped to the benefit of all.
Top Turf Teddy More than 1 year ago
Dear Jay: Pointing out 2 "Classic" non-disqualifications, and one other abberation with an entry is hardly what I would call a fair analysis of whether or not "in the old day" horses were "taken down without hesitation"; they were for vast majority! Shame on you! Unless and until jockeys know that interference will be met with swift disqualification, irrespective of whether or not a group of men interpret whether or not it affected the outcome of a race, jockeys will continue to push the outside of the envelope, endangering the lives of other riders, and trying to gain an unfair advantage during the running of a race. Don't have the time or inclination to research this, but if you did a fair study of foul claims, I'm sure you would find that there are for more claims of foul in modern days, than in "the old days," based upon the liberal attitude of stewards towards same, and thus, the reason why jockeys take unnecessary risks, and rough ride in order to win, at any cost. Moreover, by going back to "the old days" method, the public would have some respect for the stewards, in that their hands would be tied when a horse failed to maintain a straight course in the homestretch, or changed paths suddenly, bumping another horse in order to gain position. Tell it like it is Jay. Sincerely, Top Turf Teddy
bob hoberg More than 1 year ago
No matter how you attempt to justify their decision, anyway you look at it the stewards compromised the integrity of horseracing. If it was any other situation than the offender being the heavy favorite, you KNOW he would have been disqualified. It seems so obvious, and the fact that you have to go back thirty years or more to find similar examples ought to tell you something.
Mike A More than 1 year ago
The rules are clear, Twirling Candy, interfered with and knocked Summer move off stride. Of that there is no doubt. Grade one or no.....tell Mr. Chaney to watch a replay of Secretariat's Champagne DQ. That was a bad move on the part of the stewards, but in reverse. Secretariat passing Stop The Music and clearly best crossed over into the path of Stop The Music, the jock barely flinched. The result Secretariat was DQ'd. The folks who bet on Summer Move bet their money with a reasonable expectation that the horse could perform to his best ability. Twirling Candy's antics took that away. Using the excuse that Summer Move hustled up, stayed in contention for a bit, then dropped out of it so we figured he wouldn't have had a money chance is ridiculous. Did they give any thought that horses bump and grind at the start in tons of races, rush up then quit, but given clear sailing perform much better? The horse came back ouchy, limping as Espinosa said......this is the horse that wouldn't have finished better had he a clean trip??? You know CA racing is taking a serious hit.....perhaps the stewards should have thought about not angering the few fans they have left. Mike A
Nick More than 1 year ago
It should be noted: The rule does not state that a horse should be cost a "piece of the purse" in rider for a DQ to take place. It says that the cost should be a placing. Could Summer Movie have placed higher than last but for the contact? The stewards said no. I disagree. The rules leave room for debate. However, the purpose of the rules do not. The rules providing for a DQ serve to provide a disincentive for trainers putting unmanageable horses in and jockeys engaging in dangerous riding practices. Twirling Candy was not manageable through that turn, and it did cost Summer Movie. The idea that Summer Movie made ground after the contact and therefore was not substantially harmed is for the most part speculation. I might agree with them, but for races where an injured horse was able to continue for a few strides. Remember Go for Wand? Some horses have even managed to win after an injury/ foul (Ginger Punch). Horses do not necessarily stop because they are hurt. Stewards should know that. In retrospect, Summer Movie came back sore--so perhaps the contact really was significant. It is not for the stewards to know the future (unless they have a crystal ball that they are not sharing with the rest of us), it is their job to view the race to assure a fair contest for each of the entrants. And it is DRF's job to advocate for the stewards to perform their task in an honest and fair manner, with unimpeachable integrity.
Ken Wiener More than 1 year ago
In Hong Kong, horses are almost never disqualified yet jockeys get substantial fines and/or days constantly for causing interference, usually in the stretch where the real racing gets started. All of this variability, both within North America and internationally, is certainly confusing for horseplayers.
edgred More than 1 year ago
If the two horses had been reversed and Twirling Candy as the heavy favorite had been bumped and finished last, would the other horse who went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths, be taken down? You bet your ass he would. So the stewards took into consideration who the favorite was and would it affect the perception of bettors? You bet your ass. Show me that in the rue book.